By Aubrey Hirsch
When I was pregnant with my son, a long-distance friend asked me to text her a picture of my growing belly. I was just starting to “show” and was elated to have some physical evidence of the pregnancy other than the non-stop, morning-to-night, toe-curling, sob-inducing sickness that plagued me for so much of it. A few minutes after I sent her the picture, she texted back, “Wow. You are getting so big!” And I replied with a hearty “Thank you!”
Another minute went by and then she replied, “It’s weird that you say ‘thank you’ to that.”
I carried her words around with me for the rest of the day. Was it weird? What was weird about it? What was strange about wanting to celebrate a body that was getting bigger to accommodate another body? Did my friend honestly think I’d be deluded enough to imagine I’d grow an entire other person inside my torso and not expand at all?
But it wasn’t just her. All around me, people were talking about my completely healthy (and completely inevitable) weight gain as if it were terminal cancer. When it came up in conversation, the topic was met with head tilts and sympathetic tongue clucks. I heard dozens of responses like “You’re so small; you’ll still look cute,” and “Don’t worry. You’ll be able to lose it all.” Even my endocrinologist chimed in, totally unprompted, with “I really don’t think this extra weight is going to hang around on you very long.”
I suppose maybe my excitement about getting bigger was weird. I’d always been a scrawny kid: all elbows and ribs and sharp collarbones. I was a short-haired late bloomer, often mistaken for a boy well into my early teens. In fact, if there was a part of pregnancy I was looking forward to the most, it was gaining some shape on my historically shapeless form. I’d even been hoping some of my new curves might hang around after the pregnancy and recovery were over.
I generally kept this last bit to myself. I was already overwhelmed with conversations about my weight, and, to be honest, the negative tone of these exchanges was killing my buzz. I wanted to brag about my new shape! Not apologize for it. I wanted people to be excited with me, not dismiss my excitement by assuring me I’d be small again in no time.
I wanted to enjoy this time of quick and monumental change. Think about it. How often does one get the chance to try on a completely different body? Walk around in it, dress it up, show it off? This was my chance to audition a new form and, even if no one else was happy about it, I did wish other people didn’t seem so sad.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if they were right or not. What matters is that all of our bodies are different after we have our babies, even if they don’t look that way from the outside. And the most important difference between my old and new form is easy for me to see: This body built my son, cell by cell, in cacophonous darkness.
He’s the only reminder I need that this body, regardless of its size and shape, deserves to be celebrated.
Aubrey Hirsch is the author of Why We Never Talk About Sugar. She has also written essays on pregnancy and motherhood for TheRumpus.net. You can learn more about her at www.aubreyhirsch.com.
Want to read more thought-provoking essays? Subscribe to Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers and see why we’ve been receiving awards for literary excellence since 2000.